Tag Archive: Stargirl


STG201

Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the best superhero series yet returned Tuesday, as Stargirl begins a new season on the CW network.  After the city of superheroes was blown apart in last season’s finale, viewers will catch up with Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore aka Stargirl as she tries to lead a new generation of Justice Society of America superheroes.  But is it meant to be?  Yvette Monreal’s Wildcat is reeling from killing Brainwave, justifiably or not.  Cameron Gellman’s Hourman is trying to track down Solomon Grundy.  And Anjelika Washington’s Beth Chapel continues her turn as the saddest character on TV, now losing her relationship with her parents even more, plus Charlie, the cyber entity that no longer knows her.  Worst of all, it’s the end of the school year and Courtney finds she’s stuck in summer school.

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cw stargirl 2

We rated it one of the best TV superhero series of the decade (behind Marvel’s Luke Cage) in our wrap-up of the first 10 years of borg.  In the first season of Stargirl the series never let up, never let us down, and with this week’s new trailer it looks like it’s full steam ahead.  The series that may have you stand up and cheer, from the far corners of 30 years of DC Comics, Stargirl′s first season delivered a story of a trope TV never really does that well–a positive relationship between step-daughter and step-father.  Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore had a relationship with her new stepdad like you’d expect at first–awkward.  But it was doubly awkward when he was an over-eager good guy named Patrick played by Luke Wilson–and they are both superheroes.  Now that the introduction is out of the way, where do we go from here?

Thunderbolt

Check out the first trailer for Season 2 of Stargirl:

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luke cage

Ten years!  That’s ten years reviewing TV series in the decade that streaming services began to dominate TV viewing– and binge-watching was born as Netflix began releasing entire seasons at once in 2013.  How do you pick the best series?  As with yesterday’s list of movie recommendations, our theory from the very first day of publishing borg has been reviewing only those things we like, things we think are fun, imaginative, or just plain cool—because if we think they’re cool, maybe you will, too.  What makes a great TV series?  Great writing—great storytelling.  Also we looked to difficulty level and technology innovation—TV productions tend to get a fraction of the budget of big-screen features, so what they do with their time and money is critical, and some television series in the past decade were all-out feats.  The third factor we looked to is re-watchability—we’ll be watching the best series for years to come.  The big difference between ranking movies and TV is the change between seasons, that force that inevitably causes most shows to decline with each season.  So consistency is a factor.  Finally, as with movies the most important factor is the fun—why would you devote so many hours of your valuable time if you’re not going to have a great time?

Manda

One more thing: Ten years is a long time so we narrowed the series we’re including to those recommendations that fall primarily within the ten-year window.  We covered several fantastic, re-watchable series that cemented their status in reruns or syndication, many beginning before borg began publishing and finishing in the years after, including Burn Notice, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Leverage, House, MD, In Plain Sight, and three landmarks among the best pop culture-packed series of all time, Chuck, Psych, and Community.  We were disappointed that some of the best series were canceled and left to only a single season, otherwise they may have gone on to fare better against our top recommendations, shows like Jason Isaacs’ psychological police procedural Awake, Sarah Shahi’s all-for-fun Fairly Legal, Lauren Cohan’s action/spy series Whiskey Cavalier, the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ popular noir novel series Quarry, the slick animated series Tron: Uprising, and the cyborg future-world Almost Human starring Karl Urban, to name a few.

Grimm

So here are the Top 40 series we recommend, spanning 2011 to 2021.  These are our favorites.  How should you use lists like this?  If you like what we talk about at borg, you’re probably going to like these shows.  If you’ve missed any, odds are you have some new series to take a look at.  Let’s start at #40 and move our way to #1.  As with everything borg, we’re stressing genre series.  Title links are to one of our previous borg reviews.

Let’s get started!

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Kung Fu pic

Review by C.J. Bunce

Put away what you remember (if anything) about the 1970s Kung Fu television series.  You didn’t really watch the series for David Carradine, did you?  If you were like most of the viewers, you probably showed up for the martial arts.  CW Network’s new reboot of Kung Fu is for that same audience, but it also casts a wider net.  Wednesday night Olivia Liang showed up to take the new series, CW’s Kung Fu, by storm.  You can compare it to the similar-vibed, live-action Mulan, some of your favorite recent martial arts series that have the same dramatic beats like Wu Assassins, or you can compare it to series like Charmed, Smallville, Stargirl, or Riverdale.  Fans of all these shows will get a kick out of the ease at which the CW has brought a young Chinese-American hero into our must-watch DVR queue with college student-turned-Shaolin warrior Nicky Shen.  She’s a completely modern, updated Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she brings with her an interesting supporting cast while pulling some intrigue into the story via elements of classic Chinese mythology and history.  It’s fantasy, and its supernatural, and there’s swinging kicks and swordplay you’re not going to want to miss.

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Loki Mobius

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is likely the most popular villain in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  He’s also one of the best, staying true not only to the comics, but the spirit of the Norse mythology they pulled him from.  So a Loki series, coming soon to pay streaming provider Disney+, is almost guaranteed to be the big winner of 2021, right?  That seems to be confirmed in the latest trailer for the six-episode event series.  Is there a superhero series or movie this year you’re more anxious to watch than Loki?

As demonstrated by Luke Wilson’s appearance as co-star of Stargirl, you get the feeling the Wilson brothers are going to be the secret weapon for another sure-fire superhero series (even if it is about a super-villain).  This time it’s Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius, who is going to introduce Loki–and the audience–to a new universe tangent to the Marvel world we know about.  Mobius M. Mobius is a character with some true comics street cred, originating from the mind of writer/artist Walt Simonson.  And Mobius has a past in the comics pages connecting him with Fantastic Four and She-Hulk–will Wilson’s character be the new glue to connect the integration of the FF from Fox to Disney, and pull Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk into the MCU in her own series, due to arrive next year?

Loki cat

And does this furry friend know Goose from Captain Marvel?  Other actors in the series include Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, and Richard E. Grant, who played Marvel character Dr. Rice, the mad scientist in Logan, from the other Marvel studio–Is this another opportunity to pull in the Fox Marvel stories?

Check out the latest trailer for Loki:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If first impressions are everything, the first four minutes of the new CW series Superman & Lois look like a great next series to add to your DVR.  But that’s not where the writers of the series take us, leaning more into the soap opera drama audiences saw in years of Smallville.  The typical Superman tale follows Clark Kent from rural America to the big city of Metropolis, when the typical Supes story takes off.  This series reverses that plan, moving Supes and his family back to Smallville when newspaper man Clark Kent loses his job in the big city.  What happens when you take a strong-willed city woman like Lois Lane and her and Clark’s two (newly created) citified (twin) sons to Smallville?  Fans loving to watch Superman soaring in the supersuit, righting wrongs and exploring the globe, will need to take a backseat for at least part of the new series.  Economic downturns, the scam of reverse mortgages, embedded conflicts between rural and urban America–things you probably don’t turn to for your next CW superhero series–is the direction of the new series.  But what about strong-willed Lois?  Although she gets to share the title, Lois doesn’t get much to do–yet.

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Today we move from the big screen to the small screen with the Best TV Series of 2020.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2020 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching.  The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  Even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesAltered Carbon (Netflix).  Showing life in a world well past the merger of the organic and inorganic via stacks placed in human individuals’ vertebrae in the back of the neck, the second season of the series further revealed the dark side of being able to live forever.  What parts of life have the most value in a cybernetic world?  What crimes emerge when body and mind can be separated and re-shuffled?  Honorable mention: Star Trek: Picard (CBD All Access)–revisiting Star Trek’s old nemeses The Borg and introducing the cyborg-like nonbiological humanoids called Synths, the same term used in the BBC’s Humans.

Best TV Borg, Best TV VillainDarth Maul (played by Sam Witwer and Ray Park), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+).  The athletic performer Ray Park provided the best-ever lightsaber duel scenes in his co-starring performance in The Phantom Menace.  Watching the animated series this year it was clear Darth Maul wasn’t just another animated character.  Add another great duel to the books–Park’s motion capture abilities live on and continue to set the bar for Star Wars action sequences, and Witwer voices a character we never want to see go away again.  Honorable mention for Best TV Villain: Grand Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian (Disney+).

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Western TV SeriesThe Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which continues to be compared to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back more than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) now called Grogu, on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for a series that only gets better with each episode, despite their short lengths.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi TV Series: Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access).

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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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Where Marvel Comics has seen its pantheon of characters celebrated both in 20 years of X-Men movies and 11 years of interconnected movies featuring the other major characters from the comics, DC Entertainment has limped along on the big screen, choosing to either go darker than the traditional comics in its adaptations or overlooking the core of its characters altogether.  It’s had a better run on television.  What we all probably want is something getting closer to the heart of why we loved the characters as kids.  And if you want reminded of what that was, you’ll be happy to see that all nine seasons of the animated classic series Super Friends aka SuperFriends are streaming right now on DC Universe.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After what I viewed as the best superhero series pilot yet here at borg back in May, Stargirl never let up, never let us down, and with this week’s season finale rises to become the very best superhero series yet.  We can slice and dice and compare series like The Flash and Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but did any of them adapt the comic book mythos to the screen as written and drawn by years of comic book writers and artists?  Or did they all twist the stories to cut away at what made the stories enduring in the first place?  Even Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–two fantastic comic book adaptations–were nudged aside by thirteen perfect episodes of comic books in TV form.  Not since the heart in the original series The Flash, The Incredible Hulk, and the animated series Superfriends has a series full of superhero characters gotten so much so right.  And one scene in the season finale was so good, so surprising, it may have you stand up and cheer.

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